Dana Spiotta
Dana Spiotta is the author of three novels, including Stone Arabia, a finalist for the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award, and Eat the Document, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award. She lives in Syracuse, New York.

Share on Tumblr

REASON 35: Obama repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

It is hard to fathom that our official policy in the US was to discharge people from the military if they told the truth about their sexual orientation. “More than 13,000 service members have been discharged since DADT went into effect in 1993” (LA Times, July 23, 2011). “The Pentagon fired countless service members explicitly and solely because they were gay—which sends a very powerful signal to the private sector that it's legit to do the same” (Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Beast, September 20, 2011). This policy ruined the lives of people who were already putting their lives in danger to serve their country.

The bad faith of this policy created cynicism and dysfunction. It was not only unjust, but it destroyed moral coherence. The policy radiated out to the rest of the culture and encouraged discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Candidate Obama promised to repeal it. But it wasn’t until December 2010 that congress voted to repeal and Obama signed the bill. In July 2011, the president certified that the ban would end in September, which it did. Many supporters of Obama were impatient with how long he took to repeal. But now it is clear that it was another example of Obama’s Long Game. He doesn’t just address short-term goals. He takes a practical, long-term view. How can the repeal of DADT work best? Let the move come from Congress and the leadership of the military, not top-down from the Commander-in-Chief, or by the judiciary.

By allowing the military leadership—the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense—their own timeline, and having the Department of Defense's Comprehensive Review Working Group’s findings as back up (which showed a majority of soldiers supported the repeal, November 30, 2010), the repeal of DADT was done slowly and successfully. The military readied for the transition with anti-harassment training for the troops. “There will be zero tolerance for harassment, violence, or discrimination of any kind,” said Clifford L. Stanley, the Defense Department undersecretary for personnel (LA Times, July 23, 2011). None of the opposition’s warnings about creating chaos or ruining morale happened; it was a complete victory for gay Americans’—all Americans’—civil rights.

Obama is a cool, intelligent leader. He does things slowly, or incrementally, because he keeps his eyes on the prize. How to pull this off in a way that will actually work? That’s what matters. I love how practical, savvy, and hard working this president is. Let’s reelect him so he can find a way to get rid of the Defense of Marriage Act as well. I don’t always agree with Barack Obama, but I think he is a brilliant president.

Dana Spiotta
 Syracuse, New York

Read the next essay →

REASON 42:
President Obama has done something about mountaintop removal. read essay →

REASON 65:
President Obama ended stop-loss.read essay →

REASON 69:
President Obama has improved conditions for our active and retired military.read essay →